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Club helps students slow down and relax

Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 11:10

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Captions: Jan Summerhays, ecology graduate student, formed the meditation club on campus. Meditation is one of the oldest health and wellness practices in existence. STERLING BOIN photo

   In a dim room, students sit comfortably in a circle, some with their shoes off and others perched liked cats. Undeniably, this is a group that knows how to relax despite the chaos of the outside world. This is the USU meditation club.

    The club was founded last year by Jan Summerhays, an ecology graduate student. Summerhays was a member of a meditation group called the Cache Valley Buddhist Sangha, which meets every Monday at 7:15 p.m. at the Cache Valley Unitarian Universalist building. Summerhays said she realized there was a community of people that meditated, but knew there was also a group of students interested or curious about meditation who didn't have an opportunity to pursue that interest.

    Summerhays said with the help of English professor Michael Sowder she formed a club on campus. Since last year, the club has picked up more momentum and has brought in several new members. Unlike the meditation group that meets Monday nights, Summerhays said the USU Meditation Club is non-denominational and is not aligned with any specific religion or tradition.

    In addition to teaching creative writing, Sowder serves as the faculty adviser for the club. Sowder said meditation takes practice and time.

    "It takes time but gives you more energy in return," Sowder said.

    Time is needed, but Summerhays said not as much time as you would think.

    "A minimum of 10 minutes a day is all you would need," she said.

    Summerhays said she frequently meditates in the morning on her couch while staring out the window. She said the morning is the best time to meditate, or right before bed.

    Sowder said meditation origins have been traced to more than 5,000 years ago, and it is considered to be one of the oldest health and wellness practices in existence. It is believed that it was an outgrowth of staring at a campfire or gazing at the stars for a period of time. He said benefits of meditation include not only relaxation, but stress reduction as well as more energy and focus, which can be extremely beneficial to students.

    "I am able to focus more and have more studying endurance," said Pete Tauber, a graduate student in psychology and member of the USU Meditation club.

    Summerhays said the club focuses on two types of meditation, sitting meditation and the other is mindfulness meditation. Sitting meditation focuses on your breathing and making sure you are in the moment, not in the past or future. Whereas mindfulness meditation is being aware of the present moment and focusing on what you are doing at that moment.

    McKenna Miller, junior majoring in music therapy and the constant multitasker said "for me, meditation is forcing myself to slow down and focus on one thing, like classes, which is a good thing."

    Sowder said meditation is what we need to calm ourselves down after long days. 

    "We give our self lots of negative messages throughout the day," Sowder said, "and taking that time out of the day to quiet the chatter of our brains and focus on ourselves can really transform our lives."

    The Meditation Club meets every Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. The next club meeting will be Oct. 6 from 12-1 p.m. in room 335 of the TSC, and is open to everyone. You can also find the club on Facebook under USU Meditation Club.

– k.grant@aggiemail.usu.edu

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